Shiny Happy People at Memorial

By Associated PressMay 28, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 The Memorial TournamentDUBLIN, Ohio -- The Memorial had high hopes of landing all of the top 10 players in the world for the first time until Tiger Woods decided his left knee was not fully recovered from surgery.
Since then, the stars have been falling like rain, which is never a good sign at Muirfield Village.
Adam Scott opted not to play, citing fatigue. Vijay Singh was still smarting from a rib injury and had to pull out. Steve Stricker withdrew with an elbow injury. Even some of the alternates for the 120-man field decided not to come.
Who does that leave at the Memorial?
Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, both fresh off important victories.
Mickelson had not seriously contended since his February victory at Riviera, his only top 10 coming at the Masters, where he finished six shots behind Trevor Immelman. He was headed for more disappointment Sunday at Colonial when he drove left into the trees on the final hole, only to escape with a stunning shot through the treetops to just inside 10 feet for a winning birdie.
Im excited about how Im starting to play, and I want to continue that momentum, Mickelson said. This will be the last tournament I play before the U.S. Open. And after this event, Ill get home and start practicing at Torrey (Pines) getting ready for that. Although the U.S. Open is on my mind, I would like to play well this week.
Garcia didnt need any heroics, but he was far more desperate.
The 28-year-old Spaniard had gone three years without a victory anywhere in the world, and constant questions about his putting problems were getting under freckles. That all changed Sunday at Sawgrass, when Garcia holed a half-dozen putts that proved pivotal, none bigger than a 7-footer for par on the final hole to get into a playoff that he won against Paul Goydos.
Then it was off to Spain for two weeks of rest and celebration, and he has a solid outlook heading into the summer.
Its definitely a boost of confidence. Theres no doubt about that, Garcia said. I guess at the end of the day, every tournament is different, and winning the Players was great. But Ive still got to go out there and perform at the U.S. Open, and at the British Open, and at the PGA, and give myself a chance.
The good thing about it is I know that coming down the stretch, my whole game can step up to it, he said. So thats good to have.
Adding to the spice of Mickelson and Garcia coming off big wins is theyll be playing together the first two days at Muirfield Village, which is in supreme condition from tee-to-green, with rough that might be thicker'albeit different ' than the U.S. Open.
They arent alone, of course.
Ernie Els was coming and going and finally showed up Tuesday for a tournament he won in 2004. Three others from the top 10 were Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk and K.J. Choi, the defending champion of the Memorial.
The big absence, however, is Woods.
He missed the Memorial two years ago while coping with the death of his father, and he skipped this year with a knee thats not quite ready for competition. The question is whether anyone inside the ropes misses Woods.
Garcia jokingly thanked Woods at The Players Championship for not being there, and there is a part of him that truly wishes Woods were around at Muirfield Village this week.
We always enjoy playing against the best, and when hes around, its always a little bit extra motivation, Garcia said. It does make it a little bit tougher to win the event, but thats what drives you into trying to become a better player. So we miss him a little bit, and well see him in a couple weeks.
Mickelson and Woods have switched roles this year.
Woods got off to a stunning start in 2008 by winning his four tournaments, and finishing no worse than fifth in the last two he failed to win. Then came stiffness in his knee that grew so painful that surgery couldnt wait, and no one is sure what to expect when he returns in two weeks for the second major of the year.
A year ago, Mickelson was coming off a victory at The Players and was gearing up for a big summer when he injured his wrist while practicing out of deep rough at Oakmont for the U.S. Open. He had to withdraw from the Memorial, he missed the cut at the U.S. Open and endured what turned out to be a lost summer.
This time, Mickelson is feeling better than ever.
Even though he never seriously contended from Riviera through Colonial, he realized he was never too far off once he sorted out his putting. A trip to a testing center showed him the flaws in his stroke, and hes starting to piece that together.
I feel better than Ive ever felt, Mickelson said. Ive got no more issues with my hands or anything. I feel great. Ive had a year now to work on the swing changes with Butch (Harmon). I expect a lot of this summer. I think it could be a very good one.
The official start of summer is a month away, but it starts here for Mickelson on a course that has not treated him all that kindly. And he would love to add a trophy from another tournament made famous by legendary figures, having already won at Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer), Colonial (Ben Hogan) and the Byron Nelson Championship.
He was asked where the Memorial ranked among tournaments he has not won.
Well, I havent won the U.S. or British Open, so those two are going to be the ones I would like to get the most, Mickelson said. But this is one of the most prestigious events we have on tour. So its high up there.
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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”